You’re already starting to hear about bus rapid transit—like a light rail line but using a modified bus—and commuter rail. By 2040, we’ll have a complete and connected transportation network. Local buses will have dedicated lanes and signal priority at traffic lights. Commuter rail will get you to any number of points between Johnston County and Wake Forest. BRT will run from Knightdale to RTP and from Triangle Town Center to Garner, both stopping in downtown Raleigh. 

We’ll also see an array of micro-transit options connecting major transit lines. What those will look like is still unknown, although things like scooters and short-distance electric vehicles are a good start. 

Another big change will be the number of people relying on transit instead of personal transportation like cars. Even as we expand our roadways, traffic is increasing beyond capacity, and by 2040, driving your own car will be time- (and likely cost-) prohibitive. Driving yourself will be a last resort.

In order for this to succeed, though, we need to think beyond just building transit lines. We need to consider how we live in our communities and start making changes immediately. 

We need residential density, like multifamily, multistory homes and sharing lots to break out of the one-family, one-home, one-lot cycle. Walking and biking are forms of public transit as well, and we should be building services—coffee shops, grocery stores, schools—within walking and biking distance of highly populated residential areas. We must find smart ways to use the space we already occupy instead of sprawling outward. 

That’s not going to be easy. Even with well-planned and executed affordable-housing and land-use policies, Clayton, Angier, and Youngsville will continue to grow. Transportation investments alongside the maintenance of our roads and bridges will have to continue. Our efficient transportation system will keep us on the map for great jobs and exciting new industries. 

The challenge to stay ahead is the cost of a successful region.

To keep up, planners will be discussing the soon-to-come high-speed rail lines to the Northeast powered by renewable sources. The promise of biking to Raleigh Union Station and being in Washington, D.C., by brunch will occupy discussions at the community planning meetings held in coffee shops, parks, bars, and schools.

By 2040, the investments we’re making now, with a combined focus of mitigating the climate and equity effects of our decisions over the last seventy years, will be realized. Our land-use and transportation choices today will allow our children to call the Triangle their home, too.

Nathan J. Spencer is the associate director of WakeUP Wake County. Comment on this story at Click here to read the rest of our 2040 predictions.

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